The 2021 Legislative Session: The down side
Last month, we discussed some results of the 2021 Regular Session of the Legislature that I think were good. Now let’s discuss some results I think were not so good.
We passed a bill that seriously weakened the Contractor Licensing Act. I’ve supported the concept of contractor licensing for many years. No matter what type of work you might want to contract with someone to do, it’s helpful if you know that the person with whom you’re going to sign the contract knows what he or she is doing.
The bill we passed this year makes it easier for a person with marginal knowledge and skills to be licensed. The bill takes effect this summer. So if you want work done this year (plumbing, electrical, etc.) you’ll be fine if you hire someone who’s already been licensed in West Virginia. But I fear that, before long, our state will begin to see folks with less than stellar credentials hanging out licenses in various fields of work, because of this change.
We passed several bills taking authority from local governments and giving it to the state. The bill restricting the authority of the local health department to protect us from disease got a lot of publicity. Less attention was given to the bill that prevents local governments from banning plastic bags and the one that changes the method by which oil and gas is taxed as property, while still in the ground. This tax change, designed to put money in the hands of the owners of oil and gas, will take about $9 million from local governments in counties where that oil and gas is situated. Since most of that money will come from the school boards in those counties, all 55 county school boards will be hurt (because of the “triggering” effect on the state K-12 school aid formula).
The Legislature enacted a bill that accomplishes two ends. One purpose is to reduce the knowledge of the citizenry about the activities of local school boards. The other purpose is to damage local newspapers. No longer will local school boards have to publish financial statements in the local paper. From now on, local school boards are permitted to publish them online only. I hope the Jefferson County Board of Education forgoes this opportunity.
Two other bills were introduced to enact such a change for state government agencies — one for the state auditor and the other for the state treasurer. Both passed in modified form, with the idea to be studied and a report given to the Legislature.
I fear the idea of restricting the right of the public to know what their government is up to has taken hold with a large majority of the members of the Legislature, and we’ll see more bills like this in the future.
After many years of debate, we finally created an intermediate court of appeals. I opposed it and I continue to believe it will turn out to be a gargantuan waste of money.
John Doyle is a delegate for the West Virginia District 67. He can be reached at email@example.com.